Valdosta Daily Times

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February 3, 2014

Volunteers needed for slave census digitalization

VALDOSTA — Lowndes County: 1860.

Valdosta was being created to meet the railroad passing through the region. There were 5,249 people living in Lowndes County, breaking down to 2,850 whites, 2,399 blacks. No freed blacks. All slaves. For an average of a 45.7 percent slave population.

An average higher than neighboring 1860s Echols County at basically 21 percent, but lower than Brooks County’s 51.7 percent.

These are some of the statistics from the 1860 Slave Census which a Valdosta State University instructor has been working to transcribe to computerized digital files.

Mark George, Mary Turner Project coordinator with the VSU Department of Women and Gender Studies, seeks students and history buffs interested in volunteering to complete the census endeavor.

“Over the years, the Mary Turner Project has encountered people, both African-American and

 white, who don’t have access to the 1860 or 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedules so that they can research their ancestors,” according to the census project’s mission statement. “Therefore, the MTP is currently converting the data from the 1860 Census (for Lowndes and other counties throughout Georgia) with the goal of posting it in a searchable form on a free, public website. At some point in the future, we would also like to expand this project to include all former slave-owning states throughout the Deep South. We also plan to sponsor a public forum on the project when we launch the website this spring. We are currently in the process of uploading county slave schedules for Georgia.”

This information comes from the website: http://www.maryturner.org/slavedataproject.htm This site also provides a look at documents and other information involved with both digitizing the census and on the Mary Turner Project.

George says the information helps with understanding the region’s history but it may help individuals better understand their ancestry. Digitizing this information makes it more accessible for historians and people seeking the genealogy of their family trees.

As for people who may ask, why bring this up? Why dig into this past? George says, “We can’t be selective about history. History cannot just be what makes us feel good, or it becomes a fairy tale.”

The trouble is Americans, and especially Southerners, George says, have avoided speaking on these subjects for so long that they do not know how to talk about it.

Working on projects such as the census can provide a window into the past but may also serve as a springboard into discussions for the future.

More information: http://www.maryturner.org/slavedataproject.htm

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